Who Wields the World – s Largest Bitcoin Wallet? The FBI, WIRED

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Who wields the single largest Bitcoin wallet on the internet? The U.S. government.

Ter September, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and it began seizing bitcoins belonging to the Fear Pirate Roberts – the technicus of the illicit online marketplace, who they say is an American man named Ross Ulbricht.

The seizure sparked an ongoing public discussion about the future of Bitcoin, the world’s most popular digital currency, but it had an unforeseen side-effect: It made the FBI the holder of the world’s fattest Bitcoin wallet.

The FBI now controls more than 144,000 bitcoins that reside at a bitcoin address that consolidates much of the seized Silk Road bitcoins. Those 144,000 bitcoins are worth close to $100 million at Tuesday’s exchange rates. Another address, containing Silk Road funds seized earlier by the FBI, contains almost 30,000 bitcoins ($20 million).

That doesn’t make the FBI the world’s largest bitcoin holder. This honor is thought to belong to bitcoin’s shadowy inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, who is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins ter the currency’s early days. His stash is spread across many wallets. But it does waterput the federal agency ahead of the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who te July said that they’d cornered about 1 procent of all bitcoins (there are 12 million bitcoins te circulation).

Te the joy house world of bitcoin tracking, it’s hard to say anything for certain. But it is safe to say that there are fresh players ter the Bitcoin world – albeit not spil many people are buying bitcoins spil one might guess from all of the media attention.

Satoshi stores his wealth ter a large number of bitcoin addresses, most of them holding just 50 bitcoins. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare, but most savvy Bitcoin investors spread out their bitcoins across numerous wallets. That way if they lose the key to one of them or get hacked, all is not lost.

",It’s lighter to keep track of one address, but it’s also most risky that way,", says Andrew Rennhack, the technicus of the Bitcoin Rich List, a webstek that tracks the top addresses ter the world of bitcoin.

According to Rennhack, the size of the bitcoin universe has expanded overheen the past year, but the total number of people on the planet who hold at least one bitcoin is actually pretty petite – less than a quarter-million people. Today, there are 246,377 bitcoin addresses with at least one bitcoin ter them, he says. And many people keep their bitcoins ter more than one address. A year ago, that number wasgoed 159,916, he says.

Albeit some assume that the largest Bitcoin addresses are held by bitcoin dinosaurs – miners who got into the spel early on, when it wasgoed effortless to rack up thousands of bitcoins with a single general-purpose laptop – almost all of the top Ten bitcoin addresses do not getraind that profile, says Sarah Meiklejohn, a University of California, San Diego, graduate student.

She took a look at how many transactions ter thesis wallets seemed to match the profile of early-day miners and found that only one of them truly gezond the bill.

The surplus seem to belong to what Meiklejohn calls Bitcoin’s ",nouveau riche",: People who are accumulating bitcoins from non-mining sources. ",What you’re witnessing is this influx of a different kleuter of wealth,", she says.

Because most bitcoin addresses toevluchthaven’t bot publicly identified – like the FBI’s – it’s hard to say exactly makes up the fresh Bitcoin top Ten. Meiklejohn says that they’re likely to include wallets created by up-and-coming Bitcoin exchanges or businesses. One of them is the wallet that’s thought to contain 96,000 bitcoins stolen from the Silk-Road successor, Sheep Marketplace.

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